Rebirth SA is a Johannesburg-based clothing brand established by founder and creative director Jesmine Davids, in 2018. “The brand is inspired by the streets for the streets practicing sustainable methods as a design identity,” says Jesmine.
Rebirth SA’s sustainable fashion journey started in 2019 when Jesmine began sourcing preloved items, especially denim, for her design process. The emphasis of the brand is on rebirthing styles, techniques, and designs while experimenting with upcycling and sustainable practices.
Rebirth SA’s AW23 collection was showcased at SA Fashion Week last month. After the show, we caught up with Jesmine to ask a few questions about her journey toward showcasing on a national stage.
What is the story behind the name of your brand – Rebirth SA?
The name represents a commitment to being original and timeless, but still inviting newness. And to reinventing yourself to match your identity. The story is personal for many people as Rebirth means being reborn into your true self. When I was diagnosed with arthritis my career suffered, but I have had to reinvent myself.
You call yourself a “denim enthusiast”. Why is denim your chosen material?
Denim is original and timeless but it’s has a bad track record with regards to sustainability. At Rebirth SA we reinvent denim items, using old, previously worn denim garments. My dream is to run a textile mill where I manufacture natural denim.
What does sustainable fashion mean to you?
Strengthening, upholding, and keeping something alive – that is what sustainable fashion means to Rebirth SA. Being mindful of how we create and who it affects as well as finding solutions to problems is a big part of what we do. From sourcing to manufacturing to packaging we are cautious and stay true to our eco-conscious ethos.
Can you tell us about your AW23 Coffee collection?
We were briefed to design with a sport as a source of inspiration. I chose soccer, a sport loved by many South Africans, across race and class. This informed the browns, creams, and whites used in the colour palette of the collection.
This AW23 collection is called “Coffee” inspired by the streets for the streets. The streets are my culture, but a deeper cultural inspiration came from my Islamic and Khoisan cultures. Bringing in the mosaic’s paisley design derived from the Quran and doek (head tie) design, I used the paisley motif to speak to my cultural roots.
Where did your design process start for the the collection?
I began by sourcing organic fabrics, finding trims from preloved items (such as zips and buttons), researching and experimenting with coffee dyeing, using a silkscreen for placement printing, and digging into my archive for patterns. I drew inspiration from sport, my cultural roots, natural dyes as well as my family’s upholstery business in the manufacturing process. The biggest challenge was sourcing sustainable materials. The joy came once the collection was completed and I was finally able to showcase it at SA Fashion Week.
How did you ensure that the collection is sustainable?
For this collection, I focussed on four circular design strategies: low waste, low impact materials, longevity, and recycling. I dug into archive pattern designs to reduce paper usage. All fabric waste was used for buckets hats and patchwork bags. I focussed on using natural fibres, such as organic cotton and bull denim. I naturally dyed the garments using coffee and saved rainwater to get those perfected shades of creams and browns.
I designed with purpose and for longevity – instead of just designing to cut costs and maximise profits. It was important to me to use this national platform to showcase my development as a sustainable designer and to share my knowledge about sustainable fashion. I wanted to show that it is possible.
What advice would you give to a young designer curious about sustainable fashion?
Do research, gain knowledge, experiment, and connect with other creatives. The sustainable fashion industry is growing. Soon everything we do and consume will have an eco-stamp on it. Be consistent no matter what. If you’re passionate about something never give up.
What is your favourite item in your wardrobe? And why?
My checked two-piece suit. I thrifted it as an oversized blazer and then altered it to become a two-piece cropped blazer and skirt. I wore this outfit to SA Fashion Week.
What are you looking forward to for the future of Rebirth SA?
Rebirth SA is currently expanding and I’m looking forward to creating jobs, upskilling, and using fashion as a platform to help others.
I also dream of running a textile mill that manufactures sustainable fabrics in South Africa and making it accessible here so we can minimise international imports. And having Rebirth SA stocked in stores locally and internationally.
- Images: Supplied by Jesmine Davids
- To keep up with Jesmine’s journey, follow her on Instagram @rebirth_sa